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Child Sexual Exploitation: Police Criticised by Watchdog

A report by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has criticised Devon and Cornwall Police for not responding quick enough to information regarding children at risk of sexual exploitation.

Children at risk of serious harm

The independent inspectors have expressed their concern that the delays in investigating cases by the force could be putting children at risk of serious harm. Highlighting a case in which a 12-year old boy who had been groomed for sexual exploitation by an adult family friend, HMIC said more needs to be done to tackle the causes of such delays.

The report said:

“There was no evidence of any consideration being given to the wider risks posed by the suspect to other children. Despite police records showing the suspect had previously held a number of roles supervising children (including as a Scout leader, which he was asked to leave because he had taken children on trips without permission), no further investigation was undertaken to assess wider risks or to identify further potential victims.”

In another case, a 14 year old boy had been reported missing around 40 times, as well attempting to commit suicide.

In this case the risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) had been considered and information had been shared with local authority. However, there were no long term measures in place to safeguard the child going forward.

Another cause for concern in the report was the case of a thirteen year old girl. The teenager complained to police of sexual assault at the hands of a woman she was in a relationship with. However it took the police force over a week to investigate and a total of two months passed before an arrest was made.

The report added:

“Despite concerns about the victim’s vulnerability to CSE being recorded on police systems several months before this …there was still no evidence of a safeguarding or protective plan being implemented for the victim despite clear signs of her obvious vulnerability.”

Post-inspection review of report

HMIC’s initial report regarding Devon and Cornwall police was published in 2015 and a post-inspection review was carried out in April of this year. The review noted that frontline staff within the force had been subject to additional vulnerability training. Furthermore, the review noted that some improvements had been made in relation to how the force recognised and responded to CSE.

Wendy Williams, of HMIC, said:

“Following our second inspection, it was clear that Devon and Cornwall police is committed to improving how it protects children. We found examples of good practice in how it recognises and responds to child sexual exploitation, and its risk assessment of vulnerable children.

“However, the force still faces challenges which it must overcome to ensure children are protected in all areas. We found delays to child protection investigations, as well as delays in responding to cases where children were at risk of sexual exploitation. These delays can result in children being at risk of significant harm, and need to be addressed promptly.”

Sexual Abuse Claims – Expert Advice

Hampson Hughes Solicitors specialises in directing sexual abuse claims in a considerate and compassionate manner. Our Abuse & Criminal Injuries Department is headed by Greg Neill – Greg is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL).

For an open and friendly conversation about your situation, and to find out how we can assist you relevant to your individual experience, call 0800 888 6 888 or email

You will be given the direct-dial of your case handler, meaning that you will always be able to reach the person you need.

Source: The Guardian

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